A young man, believed to be the sole survivor of a massacre late last month at a border post near Kazakhstan's frontier with China, has confessed to murdering 15 people because of disagreements within the military unit, according to video released by the prosecutor’s office.
The film showed 20-year-old conscript Vladislav Chelakh describing the catalyst for the murder as an argument with a fellow soldier who refused to get out of bed, which made Chelakh “boil over and flip.”
This was part of wider disagreements at the border post where “I was humiliated […] insulted too often,” he said.
While the motive may seem weak, it lends weight to an initial theory that the murderer was the victim of hazing, the practice of senior soldiers bullying junior ones common in the armed forces of some former Soviet states.
Chelakh was shown confessing on video at the scene of the crime. Evoking scenes straight out of a horror movie, he confessed to hunting the victims down around the unit and shooting them, setting fire to the building, then killing a gamekeeper in his lodge to eliminate a witness. Chelakh spoke coherently, with no sign of reciting a prepared speech.
Further video showed him confessing to his mother and, in a clip reportedly filmed by Chelakh himself after the crime, hiding in what appears to be a cave in the forest.
Expressing a desire to lay to rest persistent speculation about a cover-up, with observers questioning how one soldier could have overpowered all the others, Kazakhstan’s Chief Military Prosecutor Yergali Merzadinov said Chelakh’s evidence had been “consistent” and included details only the murderer could know. He emphasized that a court would decide the conscript's guilt.
Merzadinov also revealed that a senior officer had been sacked over the incident, which is unusual in a country where top officials rarely take the rap for high-profile failings. Border Service Director Major-General Nurzhan Myrzaliyev, who also held the rank of deputy head of the KNB domestic intelligence service, has submitted his resignation to President Nursultan Nazarbayev over the case.
The resignation is a sign of how seriously the authorities are taking this fatal breakdown of military discipline.
The latest developments came shortly after the defense minister specified that Kazakhstan’s armed forces forbid gay men from serving since homosexuality is classified as a “disorder.” He said homosexuality was determined by psychiatric profiling – but this violent incident at a military unit raises the question of whether the army’s psychiatric profiling might not be put to better use.